The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine during the months leading to the fall of former president Viktor Yanukovich, the court said on Friday.
"The prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has decided to open a preliminary investigation into the situation in the Ukraine to establish whether... the criteria for opening a (full) investigation are met," the court said in a statement.
Ukraine is not a member of the ICC, but it has granted the court jurisdiction over any crimes that might have taken place within its borders from November 21 to February 22, when Yanukovich was deposed.
The new government of Ukraine referred the case to the ICC, alleging that Yanukovich’s troops killed more than 100 demonstrators in the capital Kiev and other cities. The referral covers the period up to the day before Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, meaning the court will not have to examine any possible crimes by Russian-backed troops during that time.
On April 17, Ukraine accepted the court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed during the recent unrest. Prosecutors will collect evidence to determine whether to ask judges to issue arrest warrants or to summon people charged with crimes.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, slid into unrest late last year when Yanukovich backed out of a trade deal with the European Union to negotiate a $15 billion financial aid agreement with Russia. After many weeks of angry protests against his government, Yanukovich eventually fled the country in February. Days later, Russian-backed forces seized control of Crimea.
The court will use the preliminary investigation, which it said was opened as “a matter of policy”, to decide if any of the alleged crimes are serious enough to warrant a full investigation.
Based in The Hague, the ICC opened 11 years ago and is the world's first independent court for trying atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court is designed to take on cases in which a national legal system is considered unable or unwilling to prosecute individuals.
It has only handed down three verdicts, two convictions and an acquittal, all for cases in Africa. At least five cases have collapsed due to lack of evidence.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-04-25